Desktop Manufacturing for the Masses

You know what blows my mind?…3D Printing. Although fairly new to many, the technology is projected to grow tremendously in the coming years. I watched a video on YouTube about the process and it is pretty amazing. If you’ve got the CAD skills or other software that is necessary to design a prototype, you can print 3D objects right at home. At this time, the printers are fairly expensive (around $2200) but like other technologies are expected to decrease in price as 3D printing becomes more prevalent. So here’s how it works: You design a three-dimensional object using a CAD type software. Send the design to the printer where it selects from a variety of materials (rubber, plastic, paper) to use in the printing process. (Some printers can print over 100 materials!) The printer passes back and forth laying down layer after layer of material according to the design. Eventually a fully-formed 3D object is created. Imagine an architect being able to print a 3D model of a building design right on their desktop. It seems like this technology is very promising for applications where a relatively quick 3D model is required. Times vary depending on the size of the object. Smaller objects can take 30-60 minutes and larger ones can take multiple hours. It will be interesting to see where this technology goes in the next few years. It’s fascinating to think you can manufacture products with a computer and desktop 3D printer. Could this be the beginning of the small business desktop manufacturing era?